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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
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Are They Married?

Noted science fiction writer Philip K. Dick wrote, “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.”
Let’s entertain — or torment — ourselves thinking about how the manipulation of a particular word controls the reality of the word itself. Let’s take a common word, the meaning of which everyone would say they know.
The word is “married.”
A church sign declares “Marriage = 1 man and 1 woman. Period” — an obvious statement about that congregation’s position in the current flap over what is called same-sex marriage. But hang that controversial topic on a peg in the back of your mind for now; let’s assume the correctness of the proposition that marriage is a relationship of two individuals of opposite gender.
To keep our thinking uncluttered, let’s ignore peripheral issues like the morality of remarriage after divorce, shades and nuances of what is meant by “male” and “female,” e.g. a woman in a man’s body and vice-versa, etc. Let’s use the words man and woman in their most simple common definition.
Extreme examples are sometimes helpful clarifiers. Here are some extreme examples.
A young couple filled with romance they mistake for love, raging hormones and several ounces of ethanol decide to get married in the middle of the night. At a commercial wedding chapel, they go through a five-minute ceremony that concludes with, “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” and the issuance of a legitimate marriage license, properly signed and sealed in the provided addressed stamped envelope. En route to where they intend to spend what’s left of the night, they drop it in a mailbox. Morning brings light into the world and into their sobering minds. Realizing they have done a foolish, frightening thing, each decides to just forget it happened and goes their own way. The end!
Are they married?
Here’s a true story. The relationship of Jim and Patricia, both in their 70s and widowed, morphed from acquaintance to friendship to strong, mature love. Due to rules of the pension fund from which Patricia received most of her income, to marry would have reduced their combined income to a precarious level. Neither of them felt quite comfortable about living together in unwedded bliss in their small, tradition-driven town. Seriously religious, they believed the essence of marriage is in the divinely sanctioned relationship, not in the legal contract recognized by the state.
In cahoots with their parish priest, they had a lovely, simple church ceremony attended by a houseful of friends, at the conclusion of which the clergyman solemnly intoned, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” But there was no courthouse-issued license. Not then, not ever. Nor did they ever apply for the benefits appertaining to a legally married couple under the law.
Are they married?
Is marriage, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Are the conventionally required committed relationship and legal endorsement the essence of marriage? Can two people be truly joined if either element is absent?
Is motivation a legitimate factor in the functional definition of marriage? Is a playboy politician who contracts a marriage of convenience in order to enhance his political currency married in the fullest sense of the word? Is a marriage undertaken for public-relations reasons scandalous or fraudulent? Jim and Patricia did their thing primarily for PR reasons. So did Henry VIII of England — six times.
People who prattle on about “traditional marriage” reveal their ignorance of the history of that venerable institution.
Legalists cannot claim that a court-issued document creates a marriage; religious folks cannot go to the Bible for answers. Nothing in the Bible deals with marriage as a voluntary relationship between two responsible adults.
Anyone who can manipulate the word to create a reality that is universally accepted as marriage will solve a lot of problems for a lot of people — might even go down in history.
Wanna try?
Editor’s note: W. Jackson “Jack” Wilson is a psychologist, an Episcopal priest, a sometime academic and a writer living in Colorado. He writes with humor, whimsy, passion and penetrating insight into the human condition. And in Pushkin, Russia, a toilet is named in his honor.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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Noted science fiction writer Philip K. Dick wrote, “The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.”
Let’s entertain -- or torment -- ourselves thinking about how the manipulation of a particular word controls the reality of the word itself. Let’s take a common word, the meaning of which everyone would say they know.
The word is “married.”
A church sign declares “Marriage = 1 man and 1 woman. Period” -- an obvious statement about that congregation’s position in the current flap over what is called same-sex marriage. But hang that controversial topic on a peg in the back of your mind for now; let’s assume the correctness of the proposition that marriage is a relationship of two individuals of opposite gender.
To keep our thinking uncluttered, let’s ignore peripheral issues like the morality of remarriage after divorce, shades and nuances of what is meant by “male” and “female,” e.g. a woman in a man’s body and vice-versa, etc. Let’s use the words man and woman in their most simple common definition.
Extreme examples are sometimes helpful clarifiers. Here are some extreme examples.
A young couple filled with romance they mistake for love, raging hormones and several ounces of ethanol decide to get married in the middle of the night. At a commercial wedding chapel, they go through a five-minute ceremony that concludes with, “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” and the issuance of a legitimate marriage license, properly signed and sealed in the provided addressed stamped envelope. En route to where they intend to spend what’s left of the night, they drop it in a mailbox. Morning brings light into the world and into their sobering minds. Realizing they have done a foolish, frightening thing, each decides to just forget it happened and goes their own way. The end!
Are they married?
Here’s a true story. The relationship of Jim and Patricia, both in their 70s and widowed, morphed from acquaintance to friendship to strong, mature love. Due to rules of the pension fund from which Patricia received most of her income, to marry would have reduced their combined income to a precarious level. Neither of them felt quite comfortable about living together in unwedded bliss in their small, tradition-driven town. Seriously religious, they believed the essence of marriage is in the divinely sanctioned relationship, not in the legal contract recognized by the state.
In cahoots with their parish priest, they had a lovely, simple church ceremony attended by a houseful of friends, at the conclusion of which the clergyman solemnly intoned, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” But there was no courthouse-issued license. Not then, not ever. Nor did they ever apply for the benefits appertaining to a legally married couple under the law.
Are they married?
Is marriage, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Are the conventionally required committed relationship and legal endorsement the essence of marriage? Can two people be truly joined if either element is absent?
Is motivation a legitimate factor in the functional definition of marriage? Is a playboy politician who contracts a marriage of convenience in order to enhance his political currency married in the fullest sense of the word? Is a marriage undertaken for public-relations reasons scandalous or fraudulent? Jim and Patricia did their thing primarily for PR reasons. So did Henry VIII of England -- six times.
People who prattle on about “traditional marriage” reveal their ignorance of the history of that venerable institution.
Legalists cannot claim that a court-issued document creates a marriage; religious folks cannot go to the Bible for answers. Nothing in the Bible deals with marriage as a voluntary relationship between two responsible adults.
Anyone who can manipulate the word to create a reality that is universally accepted as marriage will solve a lot of problems for a lot of people -- might even go down in history.
Wanna try?
Editor’s note: W. Jackson “Jack” Wilson is a psychologist, an Episcopal priest, a sometime academic and a writer living in Colorado. He writes with humor, whimsy, passion and penetrating insight into the human condition. And in Pushkin, Russia, a toilet is named in his honor.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.